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Subject: Watch Out For That Jade
Another Asian detective here as Boris Karloff is Mr Wong in this fairly typical (but still enjoyable) detective mystery. A cop is murdered, and Wong needs to figure out whodunnit as the body count keeps rising. Good, however I could have thought Karloff would have risen about Oriental impersonations, but what do I know.
WINSTON SMITH3353 -
Subject: 5 MINUTES MISSING
A more complete version of this film is found here on the IA:
Subject: Mr. Wong
Subject: Always good
One of my favorites.
Note: this copy is missing portions. The beginning should've been a waterfront bar scene with the (later) missing detective. The scene in the radio store with Karloff is my favorite of the movie but here it's been clipped. Karloff, after asking questions about the remote- controlled radio, looks toward the camera with a "gee-whiz what'll they think of next?" smile of wonder. I love it when they showcase the "latest" in technology in these older movies!
It's a small peek at real life in those days.
This copy reminds me of the edited versions I use to watch on tv as a kid. Cut for commercial breaks (then it would've been somthing simple like Wonder bread, Campbell's soup, Jello, Bayer aspirin, Prell shampoo, Alka-Seltzer...).
Anyway, still worth 5 stars for the memories.
Subject: If you want to watch Boris Karloff at his best, try 'Charlie Chan At The Opera'
In 'Charlie Chan At The Opera' you can have the extra fun of watching Boris Karloff play Gravelle, an opera baritone in the opera 'Carnival'. Boris is really great as the charismatic bad guy in the opera and even better as a seemingly crazy killer (he isn't) who just wants his daughter to love him. In my book, his very best performance. Also, whoever dubs the opera singing for Boris is amazing. Watch it for sure.
Anyway, to get back to 'Fatal Hour', Boris does a professional, workmanlike job, playing Wong, the Chinese detective. He and the other two leads give a good performance that is entertaining and delightful, with a bit of the subtle Karloff humor to lighten things up. A fun film!
Subject: Troubel with the print
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this - there are parts of scenes missing. You're watching a scene, and it abruptly jumps and someone is already talking. I think it's around 25:00 that it happens at least a couple of times. You can still follow it, but it's like leaving the room when the television is on and returning after a trip to the bathroom. You know you've missed something, but you don't know what it is.
Still worth watching.
Subject: Boris Karloff Does Well in "Fatal Hour"
This 70 year old movie holds up well. It has a good plot, it moves along sequentially with few or no pauses,and has acceptable acting by the supporting staff. Boris Karloff does well as the main character. An enjoyable movie.
Subject: Charlie Chan and his accent.
Chan having an accent and his children having no accent seems to puzzle some of the readers. The answer is really quite simple. Charlie came to America from China as an adult and learned the language. Thus he has an accent. However, his children were born here and went to school here and have no accent.
I happen to know many hispanics that follow that pattern. They came here as adults and learned the language---but will always have a strong accent. But their children were born here and learned the language as children and have no accent. The mystery is rather easily solved.
There is no racism in portraying Charlie Chan with a Chinese accent. It is merely realism. After all, he is always portrayed as being intellectually superior to whitey. Perhaps that is reverse racism. I am sure that there will be someone who will find something perverse about that.
My answer is---just enjoy the movie. Hey, movies are entertainment and seldom anything else. And this is an enjoyable movie. Karloff gave a really good performance.
Subject: Just watched it again.
Still love it. Some people have issues, but then some people will always have issues. Story isn't that difficult to follow, acting is really pretty good and... I'm still head over heals in love with Marjorie Reynolds.
Subject: Kind of Dull
This movie starts off OK, but I got bored after about 20 minutes. The acting's good, but the storyline is quite weak.
Kitten in the Rain -
Subject: Very thoughtful
I have to admit that I tried this movie with gritted teeth, expecting some of the ugly stereotypes that seemed to prevail about Asian people during the 1940s, but what I found was a very thoughtful and interesting movie. (I only gave it three stars because the writing felt too rushed to me, and some of the actors -- not Karloff, of course -- came off as a bit wooden.)
Some of the themes in this movie are very brave for its time: A Chinese investigator who stays calm when everyone around him gets stirred up to insensibility, who speaks cultured English, rather than the broken English of someone who might be considered "less than American", and who, on top of all of that, is forced to deal with a certain amount of racism. Karloff plays Wong's reaction just right when the gambler takes one look at him and says "Oh, the Chinese copper".
Even the spunky lady reporter gets fair treatment. She manages to go through the whole thing without getting tied up by a gangster, which is pretty remarkable, and even gets a chance to be a hero at the end.
Subject: THE FATAL MISUNDERSTANDING
This series of films about Asian-American detective James Lee Wong (loosely based on a series of stories that appeared in Colliers Magazine back in the 40s) is far superior (to my mind)to the "Charlie Chan" series of the same period. Don't get me wrong...I grew up loving Charlie Chan and those films will always be close to my heart. It's just that now, in 2006, they DO seem just the least bit racist. Why should Charlie Chan, the Master Detective from Honolulu, Hawaii speak broken English? This is a brilliant and widely cultured man...the problem was, of course, that THAT was (stereotypically) how a Chinese-American (or ANY Asian-American) was SUPPOSED to speak. Fortunately (as a redeeming factor) his "sons" (all of whom are actually PLAYED by Chinese-Americans)are allowed to speak English perfectly. The most famous of Charlie's sons (Keye Luke) who also played Mr. Wong (I'm gradually working my way back to the present film, you see) went on to play Master Po (the Blind One) on TV's KUNG-FU series.
Back to the present selection: One of the "complaints" I have heard about these films is that Karloff "affects no accent". I think that is one of the redeeming factors. Why should a man of James Lee Wong's educational attainments, speak with an accent? Well, in fact, he DOES have a British accent but Mr. Wong was partially educated in the UK. In another of the series "The Mystery of Mr. Wong" we get a run-down of his University degrees and realize the genius of this man. I think Karloff plays him beautifully as the brilliant and cultured man he actually WAS.(Or would have been had he not been a fictional character).
No, the racist label is mis-applied to THESE films. You can find THAT in the Charlie Chan series AND in THE PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN where Keye Luke assumes the role. Watch his interaction with his servant (meant for comic effect) it makes one a little uncomfortable to watch.
But in ALL these films you also see the effort to explode the stereotypes through the main characters (Chan and Wong) who are always more intelligent than the Caucasians they are afflicted with and who always solve the mystery while the police remain "baffled" right through to the end.
I give the Mr. Wong series (with Karloff) five stars.
Subject: Review Of Fatal Hour
My rating is based on 5 categories:
1. Acting, 2. Story, 3. Visual Effects
4. Sound Effects, 5. Costumes/Props/Set Appearance
Each gets a 0 (worst) to 20 (best) rating for a total of 0 to 100%.
1. 15 - Acting is pretty good.
2. 17 - Story good and keeps you interested.
3. 15 - Overall visual effects are okay.
4. 15 - Sound effects are okay.
5. 15 - Sets etc. are good.
This is a bow-wow, and Boris is all Wong. Detective Street's barking about is quite humorous, though, and the housekeeper, not in listed in the credits, is most convincing.
The Fatal Hour is about Mr. Wong and Capt. Street investigating the murder of a detective involving smuggling. The title must be about the timing of death later in the film.
No scenes are wasted, keeping the film moving steadily. Karloff, affecting no accent, is unconvincing as a chinese detective, though his is not the worst performance. The movie employs a favorite hook used in movies from this period, a pretty female reporter. Fortunately, it avoids using her or anyone else as comic relief.
I can recommend the mpeg1 file for it's video clarity and decent audio. IMDb says this movie is 68 mins. long, but this print appears to be somewhat shorter.
Subject: Fatal Hour
An above average who-dunnit. Karloff is superb, ably backed with a strong supporting cast and pacy direction.
Subject: Enjoyable, in spite of stereotypes...
Not the best idea having Boris Karloff playing an Asian... He did an OK job, but his character just didn't come across as Asian. But a very enjoyable movie, one of the better ones in the archive.
Many of these B films are too boring to watch, and not campy enough to be cult classics. This one was easy to watch.
Subject: Good Movie
Mr. Wong investigates the murder of a police officer, nearly ending up murdered himself during a climactic jewelry-store robbery. The principal suspect is Belden (Craig Reynolds), the son of a crooked businessman (John Hamilton) whose perfidy has apparently caused all the trouble in the first place.
For paper back mystery readers, this is Grant Withers detective Mr. Wong played by Boris Karloff. Another caucasion playing an Oriental like so many others of that time period. Did you see John Wayne as Ghenis Kahn? Oh brother!
Interestingly, the script was done by director George Waggner under the name Joseph West.
So it's well written and I think very entertaining. And with what I think and a $5 bill you can get a coffee at Starbucks, maybe.